The Road to a 100% Clean Economy

By Fred Krupp  |  Originally published July 29, 2019 on Forbes.

After declining for several years due to smart policies and cleaner fuels, carbon dioxide pollution from U.S. power generation and industry ticked back up in 2018. That’s bad news—and there’s no question that this dangerous increase has been aided and abetted by the Trump administration’s rollback of climate and clean air protections.

The effects of climate change are all around us. American taxpayers and businesses large and small are spending billions of dollars annually to recover from catastrophic storms and floods that have become routine; we all have family and friends who suffer from asthma and other health conditions made worse by rising temperatures.

If we are going to avoid business and supply chain disruptions, make communities more resilient, and minimize the financial risks posed by climate change, our nation needs a plan that guides us towards climate stability and economic prosperity.

The 100% Clean Economy Act announced this week in Congress is the roadmap America needs to drive urgent action that matches the scale of the problem. It provides a starting point and a finish line for business and government working together to solve the climate crisis.

The bill, which will soon be introduced in the House by Rep. Donald McEachin of Virginia, will commit the U.S. to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That means that by midcentury we’ll release no more climate pollution into the atmosphere than we can remove—across all sectors of the economy. This ambitious goal is consistent with what science tells us we need to do in order to help avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

While many efforts to address climate change focus on new technology mandates, this legislation directs all federal government agencies to act within their existing authorities to achieve 100% clean by 2050. This means immediate actions to make our vehicles more efficient, cut methane emissions, increase energy efficiency standards, and reduce the federal government’s greenhouse gas footprint through clean procurement.

The 100% Clean Economy Act will also establish an independent advisory committee to set interim targets and make recommendations for additional legislation that will help get the country to net zero.

Accountability is vital, which is why this legislation provides the EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality with clear authority to hold each agency’s feet to the fire to make sure we are putting the country on the path to 100% clean.

A 100% clean economy will be powered mostly by clean and renewable energy, and it will transform the utility, transportation and industrial sectors. It will also require us to develop and scale up technologies that take climate pollution out of the air and sequester it underground. The National Academy of Sciences calls that a critical part of any comprehensive climate plan.

Rep. McEachin, along with his colleagues Earl Blumenauer, Debbie Dingell, Deb Haaland, and Paul Tonko, are leading a diverse coalition of sponsors from both the progressive and moderate wings in Congress. These lawmakers represent frontline communities that are dealing directly with the climate crisis. They represent coastal towns threatened with rising sea levels, western landscapes devastated by longer fire seasons, and labor unions fighting for good-paying jobs.

These leaders understand what’s at stake because their constituents see it every day and are counting on their representatives to forge solutions.

This bill sets the level of ambition we need to meet our climate goals, while recognizing that there are many pathways to reach a 100% clean economy. Most importantly, it recognizes that we can’t afford any delay, and gets us started immediately.

Often, the most severe impacts from climate change and air pollution are felt by lower-income people and communities of color. In fact, more than 71 percent of African American families across the country live in counties that are consistently in violation of federal standards for air pollution. A 100% clean economy will benefit all Americans and unlock new innovations that will make our industrial sites and transportation systems cleaner.

The 100% clean economy won’t be made in D.C.—it will be led by our businesses, our entrepreneurs, and tens of thousands of local civic and community leaders committed to creating a better future. The clean energy transition must create new good-paying jobs that allow people the financial freedom to raise a family, buy a home, and secure a comfortable retirement.

American ingenuity has helped make our country a true global superpower – now we must deploy every asset we have to transform our economy to clean energy.

Climate change is a historic threat to our prosperity and way of life. The 100% Clean Economy Act is ambitious, achievable and inclusive enough to invite all Americans into a conversation about the clean energy economy. This is the path we need to be on, and we must start now.